A former campaign staffer for Michigan’s Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel allegedly said he used Ukrainian hackers to manipulate the election and help Nessel win the state’s closest race in 2018.
The bombshell allegation was buried in a federal extortion lawsuit against Dmitriy Movsesyan, who worked on Nessel’s campaign at various points in 2017 and 2018. (Full disclosure: This columnist funded an independent expenditure against Nessel’s eventual 2018 Republican opponent, Tom Leonard, during the GOP nomination campaign.)
The Detroit Free Press, a politically liberal newspaper that endorsed Nessel in 2018, published an extensive report on the lawsuit early Friday, but omitted any reference to the allegation of election manipulation. This columnist first reported the allegation.
The lawsuit, filed by Executive Car Rental owner Maher Waad in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claims Movsesyan “boasted of his underworld network of Ukranian [sic] computer hackers, who Movsesyan claimed manipulated the 2018 Michigan Attorney General Election.”
Obviously, this is a serious allegation that should be investigated by the U.S. Justice Department. The Michigan Legislature should also launch an inquiry, though it lacks the investigative expertise and resources for such a probe.
The allegation is also on par with George Papadopoulos’s infamous comments over heavy drinks to an Australian diplomat — comments that ignited Robert Mueller’s witch hunt into now-disproven claims of collusion by Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
It is unclear exactly what Movsesyan did for Nessel, as there are conflicting reports and statements. His social media profile on LinkedIn says he was the campaign’s communications director in 2017. Meanwhile, an official spokeswoman at the Michigan Department of Attorney General downplayed Movsesyan’s role, calling the allegation “horseshit” and saying he was an information technology consultant. However, this conflicts with a 2018 report by MIRS News that described Movsesyan as the now-attorney general’s “original marketing person.”
Regardless of his exact title, Movsesyan was paid $21,651 by Nessel’s campaign, according to both state campaign finance records and published reports.
The lawsuit accuses Movsesyan of extorting Waad for $9,500 not long after Nessel began an investigation into Executive Car Rental for unlawful business practices. He allegedly sent multiple text messages offering to influence the attorney general.
One message included a selfie-style picture of him driving Nessel. “Oh look, it’s your favorite attorney general in my back seat,” Movsesyan is accused of texting.
It is far too early to know all of the facts, but this allegation has potentially wide-ranging implications, not least because Nessel has been relentless in carrying out a hard-left agenda.
Nessel’s greatest hits since taking office in January have included launching a special unit to surveil political opponents under the guise of so-called hate crimes, declining to enforce laws that conflicted with her ideology and uniting Muslims and Roman Catholics to denounce her threat to religious freedom. Even liberal writers have described Nessel as “brash” for turning “her liberal politics into policy.”
Perhaps what is most astonishing about this latest allegation is the almost complete silence from the Michigan press corps. Only the Detroit News picked up the election manipulation allegation in their story about the extortion lawsuit.
Sure, this news broke on a Friday, but I would be kidding myself if I didn’t think Nessel, being a Democrat, isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt or at least an initial pass from overworked journalists who would rather go home early than spend the day reporting an admittedly complicated story. At the very minimum, you would think there might be a few tweets.
After all, the allegation came in a lawsuit, which should give it infinitely more creditability than anything an intoxicated Papadopoulos said.
Dennis Lennox is a Michigan political commentator and public affairs consultant. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.